Sugaring the Pill

Unlike my husband who has always thought Jamie Oliver was a pretentious Mockney twat, I’ve always had time for the man. Thanks to him I can cook a stonking risotto, for which I will remain forever grateful. I liked his campaigning on the issue of school meals. It seemed important to bring up the fact that turkey twizzlers are made of pig toenails and that per head, less is spent on children’s school lunches than those of crims in prison. I like his enthusiasm for cooking, and his work with Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall on raising awareness of food waste and over fishing was also good stuff.

I have however, gone right off him in recent weeks.

Firstly, there is the whole banging on about how simply marvellous and wonderful breast feeding is, and how it is totally easy peasy and he doesn’t understand why everyone isn’t doing it all the time.

My reaction, in a nut shell: ‘FUCK OFF.’

Until you have fed a child who isn’t getting enough milk from your failing bosom for hours while she screams because she’s starving, you cannot comment.

Until you have fed through cracked, bleeding, raw nipples, you cannot comment.

Until you have passed out on the bathroom floor with mastitis and been carried to the Dr by your husband who thinks you might actually be dying, you cannot bloody comment.


Secondly there is the whole notion of the sugar tax. A sugar tax which only applies to fizzy drinks.

My reaction to the sugar tax boils down to this simple to use phrase: ‘FOR FUCK’S SAKE’.

Broken down, here it is in more detail:

I give you prohibition. It did not work.

I give you increasing taxation on alcohol. It does not put people off.

I give you increasing taxation of cigarettes. It does not work.

I give you the fact that sugar does not just exist in soft, fizzy drinks, amazingly enough. It is in alcohol and smoothies and milkshakes, fruit and juices and all kinds of things, including potatoes and crisps and bread and pasta, because too many carbs turn into sugar if you have no other way to digest them, so taxing Coca-Cola is going to do the same thing taxing alcohol and cigarettes do.

What is that, oh great guru? I hear you cry.

Well, firstly it’s going to give Osborne a great deal of money to play with, which he is basically taking from ordinary people, as, with all these things, the price of the things people buy will go up to compensate for the tax, and people will still buy them anyway. He says he’s going to spend it on children’s sport in schools. He says lots of things. He promised three things in his time as Chancellor of the Exchequer. Three large things. He has broken his promise on two of them already. I don’t believe a bloody word of it.

Secondly, it’s going to make 3/5ths of fuck all difference in terms of obesity unless we go back to teaching people properly about nutrition and cooking real food.

Thirdly, it’s making Osborne look like he’s doing something when he’s doing nothing at all except supporting his wealthy friends and helping them ride roughshod over the poor. AGAIN.

Fourthly, it’s going to make people who think sugar is ‘evil’, start banging on self righteously again. Dear God, people. Get some perspective here. Sugar is not evil. It is just sugar. ISIS is evil. Osborne is quite evil. Not teaching proper domestic science in school is reasonably evil, but sugar? Bollocks is it?

If sugar is the only ‘evil’ you can find yourself getting worked up about, you live in a much nicer world than I do, and I’m wondering if I can pop over for a visit?


11 responses to “Sugaring the Pill

  1. V, North London

    I’m with you on teaching nutrition. My Essex comprehensive mid-1970s aspired to be bog-standard, it was that bad! However, I am glad that for 3 years I studied a double period of ‘home economics’ with wonderful teachers and learnt about nutrition and got the opportunity to cook, bake, budget, launder, clean, work in a group etc. – skills I need and use every day – with enough time to finish and make something edible. Sometimes it was a disaster – kidney turbigo is not a regular in our household but fish pie is, and I can launder wool with the best of them (squeeze, don’t rub … ).

  2. While I agree on many things in this, mainly how untrustworthy George Osborne is and how any money from the sugar tax will be used, I disagree when you say it won’t have an effect.
    Taxing tobacco does work as I can tell you if Cigarettes cost £2.40 (their cost before tax) a whole load more people would smoke a whole lot more.

    Childhood obesity in the UK is amongst the worst in the world, and while you are right in that people need to cook real food, anything to discourage kids from consuming a steady diet of refined sugar is good in my opinion.

    And this argument of ‘taxing the poor’ is wrong. Just because you are poor it doesn’t mean you cannot drink water, cannot cook real food, you have to drink Mountain Dew and eat KFC. ‘Taxing the stupid’ is more like it.

    • I think taxing cigarettes has much less of an impact than the smoking ban to be honest. I also know where you can buy knock off cigarettes at a fraction of the price and so do many smokers. I have absolutely no doubt that the sugar tax will now create a black (grey?) market in cheap fizzy drinks, and actually there already is a market for cheap fizzy drinks. If you go to any supermarket chain you can pick up own brand fizzy pop for a fraction of what you would pay for branded, and the tax on top of it is still going to bring it in under what you would pay for branded.

      I also think that medically speaking there is not much difference between refined sugar and unrefined sugar. While people still don’t think that eating potatoes/bread and pasta has anything to do with sugar, there will still be a problem, and fizzy drinks are a miniscule part of the vast problem of what diet does to you. It has been done to make people think they are ‘safe’ and so that Osborne can be seen to be throwing the public a bone and in my opinion all it will do is miss the mark massively because it won’t point out or tax how much sugar is in a milkshake for example, or fruit juice when we know the surge in smoothie drinking has wreaked havoc on tooth decay because of all the sugar.

      As for the taxing the poor thing, this will be a tax that primarily affects the poor because of the price of food and the difference between the price of convenience food and ingredients, and because of the failure of schools to provide domestic science classes. It is not stupid if nobody has ever taught you to cook. It is stupidity if you know how to cook and you don’t.

  3. I’m with you with regard to Jamie. Double standards and uneducated on certain matters.

  4. I agree with everything you have written here. (Frankly this is no surprise to me these days!)

    One thing I would add is that I remain unconvinced about the obesity “crisis” among children. I see very few kids around in my town who could really be called fat or even plump. Yes, the number does increase (slightly) once they are clearly of teen years, and presumably have more ability to access food and drink on their own without parental input. But among the youngsters I see no great problem.

    I am reminded of a programme on the issue on Radio 4 a few (5-ish?) years ago about this very matter. The presenter, who was equally unconvinced, was taken by a campaigner to look at a class of children. He said he thought they all looked quite normal weight. “Oh”, said the woman who was adamant about the crisis, “we just don’t see it any more because it is so common.” The presenter was not impressed. He then went to meet with the man whose chart of height/weight is used to declare so many kids obese, only to find the man furious that his work was being used that way as it had never been intended as such. The line on the graph people were saying meant that above it one was obese was intended to convey nothing of the sort. (I did think he had been naive to put a line on his graph but there we are).

    I think if a child does not look fat then s/he probably isn’t. Further, I suspect all this meddling IS going to create a generation of kids with a deeply unhealthy relationship with food and cause more problems than it solves. One thing we could all stop doing with kids is insisting that they “eat up” and clean their plates. Doing so overrides the brain’s ability to determine when a person is satisfied – rather than full or, worse, stuffed. This leads to poor portion control and over-eating. Apparently naturally slim people have kept this ability and will, for example, eat one or two slices of pizza, then stop, satisfied or take a few bites of dessert. They feel no need to finish food. Of course this flies in the face of all the waste rhetoric, not to mention the “eat three times a day whether you feel hungry or not” standard approach to food.

    I could go on to talk about how often when we think we feel hungry we actually need to drink and wonder about school children being kept from drinking water virtually all day, but I won’t.

    *packs soapbox under one arm and shuffles off*

  5. Don’t know if the podcast link still works but a related article to what I was wittering on about is here (hopefully!)

  6. No. I agree with you. Very few of the children at my children’s schools seem obese to me and it isn’t because everyone is getting incrementally bigger and I’m just not noticing it.

    I also totally agree with you about portion control and hydration. In fact I shall climb on your soap box with you.

  7. I went right off Jamie Oliver when he recently described his wife on TV as ‘a right fit bird’.

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